C.H. Spurgeon

Sinners, let me address you with words of life; Jesus wants nothing from you, nothing whatsoever, nothing done, nothing felt; he gives both work and feeling. Ragged, penniless, just as you are, lost, forsaken, desolate, with no good feelings, and no good hopes, still Jesus comes to you, and in these words of pity he addresses you, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out."

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Pray This Prayer And...

I recently read a missionary’s prayer letter and they were speaking about the church knocking doors and street meetings. He tells of a lady that he handed a tract and asked whether she knew if she had forgiveness of sins or not. She replied that she did not. He shared 1 John with her. Then he writes, “the woman understood clearly what she read, yet she would not pray and ask the Lord to save her”. [emphasis mine]

The missionary will go unnamed because [1] I am not signaling out this missionary or judging their character or witness for Christ, and [2] this is but a small example of what it seems like I am seeing all over within the Baptist camp.

The last few Baptist websites I have visited all have a similar page. The reader of the page is told, if they would like to accept Christ as their Savior or if they would like to be saved, please “pray this prayer” or “pray something like this”. They may even add, “If you feel this way in your heart”. I have also heard similar things from pulpits and others that go door to door witnessing. [This is not a personal attack on anyone reading this, but a general personal thought.]

We [Baptist] believe that the Catholics, Church of Christ, and Pentecostals are wrong concerning salvation because we believe that they include [or add] works for salvation. In my opinion it appears that the Baptists are beginning to do [or have been doing] the same thing with prayer.

If someone must pray and ask the Lord to forgive them of their sin to be saved, is that person saved at “Dear Lord”, “Amen”, or at the moment they say “forgive me”? I realize that this may sound silly, because honestly I don’t think there has been much thought put in to what is being said. If someone asks me, “What must I do to be saved” and I say, “Pray and ask God to forgive you for your sin”, am I not telling the person to work [pray] for their salvation?

I realize that scripture declares, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1 John 1:9], but I also remember when Paul and Silas were asked, “What must I do to be saved” they responded with “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” [Acts 16:31, 32]. John 3:18 says, “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” I don’t find “pray this prayer” or “pray something like this” in scripture.

Am I wrong to think this? I will tell the Catholic, Church of Christ, and Pentecostal that they are unscriptural to tell someone they must be baptized to be saved because they are teaching works for salvation, but do I not do the same thing if I tell someone they must pray a prayer to be saved?

Can we find scriptural support or an example in scripture for when someone asks us “What must I do to be saved” that we can tell them “Pray this prayer”, “Pray something like this”, “Ask Jesus to forgive your sin and come in your heart”?

Surely no one believes that merely saying these words will save anyone, so why do we tell people it will?

Can I get saved without praying? If so, why are we telling people they need to do it?


Tony said...

I have struggled with this same issue many times. I am not as much against it now as I once was, but am still convinced that many people handle it in the wrong way. The Scripture records; "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." No, it is not a prayer that saved us. As one who gives invitations on a regular basis, I believe that by the time a person steps out into the isle to come forward that it is already over with. I do not, however, have a problem with asking people to pray a prayer of commitment. I do not have a problem with voicing a prayer and saying you can pray this . . . if it expresses the desires of your heart. But, never would I say: Pray . . . to be saved. I think that is misleading and deceptive.

I think that the repeat after me prayer flows out of Romans 10:9-13. The problem with the prayer is that if fails to take into account the context of what is being said. Chapter 9-11 of the book of Romans is directed primarily to Jews. Think about this: What would it mean for a Jew in Paul’s day to confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in his heart that God raised him from the dead? It would mean that he or she had literally turned their back on their family, society and religion. Or at least that is how it would seem to their fellow Jews.

Based on what I have seen, I do not believe that the majority of people who “pray the prayer” are sincere enough about it to forsake everything in order to gain Christ. That’s just my opinion.

I do know that some have been lead in a prayer and are as faithful as anybody I know. Salvation is of the Lord and I think we need to always keep that in mind.


Servant's Salute.com said...

I agree with your comments regarding Romans 10:9-13, because this was a confession of individuals’ change from their current rejection of Christ to an acceptance of Christ. Like you said, they would have been going against the grain. In Germany, when a person accepts Christ, is baptized, and wants to join the Baptist church, they have to let everyone know [the city, church, job, etc.] that they are leaving the Catholic Church. Their “tithes” are no longer deducted from their paychecks and their children are taken out of certain classes of school. We in America have no idea what it means to accept Christ as Savior and suffer for it.

If people are using Romans 10:9-13 as a means to support praying for salvation, I find it to be a very weak stance. We confess the Lord Jesus Christ every time we witness to someone and no where in this passage is there given an example or idea that prayer is what is being spoken of.

Further more, to use this verse could cause the very same problem the Catholics, Church of Christ, and Pentecostals run into with baptism. Mark 16:16 says “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” whereas Romans 10:9 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Are both teaching that we must believe and do something else? You say, “Of course not”. I agree, but I have just been speaking with a Pentecostal that would disagree and says that we must indeed be baptized because of this very verse [Mark 16:16]. You say, “Well, he is just wrong”, but remember when we are telling people that are lost that they need to come to Christ and the first thing we tell them to do is pray – are we planting the thought in their mind that they receive Christ by praying? You say, “That is absurd”. Is it? Ask someone today if they are saved and how do they know it. Most likely they will say, “I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive my sin and come into my heart.” Is that then how they received Christ? Prayer is being associated with salvation.

I’ll be honest; I personally do not believe in any kind of repeat after me prayer. We will make fun of Catholics for repeating the “Lord’s Prayer”, but we do the very same thing when it comes to someone wanting to accept Christ. I believe that it is the Holy Spirit that convicts the soul of a person and leads them to accept Christ. If that is the case, why can not the Spirit give them the words to pray instead of what we have written down in our Bibles or on a piece of paper? Romans 8:26, says “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

I personally believe this thing of prayer is the major cause for the Easy Believism Christianity that we have today. We have thousands of people “getting saved” all over the place and not a single thing is changing. Why is it that someone can raise their hand or come down an isle, pray the prayer of salvation, and never feel the need to ever come back again? Or better yet, be witnessed to at their home or on the street, be asked to pray and accept Christ as their Savior, do so, and never feel the Spirit leading them to church? I believe it is because when we tell a lost person that they need to pray and ask Christ to forgive their sins and come into their hearts that is exactly what they do and believe they are okay “to go about their daily business as usual”. The only problem is that they do it with their mouth and not with their heart.

As in your last paragraph, I agree that some people will honestly get saved and serve the Lord, but I fear the majority is being lead astray by the idea that prayer is getting them in. Salvation is of the Lord, but if we are giving them a false sense of security in causing them to believe that by doing this or that is causing them to be “okay” in God’s eyes, surely we will be held accountable. Why do we not have an example of this type of witness in scripture?

I honestly believe we are on dangerous ground with the souls of men with this prayer issue.

Sean said...

The problem is that we equate an action with a work. This is incorrect, we cannot be saved because we helped an old cross the street.

The New Testament is the history of the new covenant between man and God. To seal a covenant there must an action on both sides. A marriage does not work if only one party says "I do". They must both be in agreement, then they must consummate the marriage. In every case, confession precedes action.

We twist the word "work" to mean all and everything, then we wonder why we are helpless to do anything.

Servant's Salute.com said...

Might I ask, [1]what is the action of God and [2] what is the action of man?

Stephen said...

It's called "decisional regeneration".

Sean said...

Might I ask, [1]what is the action of God and [2] what is the action of man?

God reconciles to the individual, man must repent and be baptized. Abraham and his offspring had to be circumcised.

God always requires action.

Servant's Salute.com said...

What then of Ephesians 2:1-10?

Ephesians 2

1And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

2Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

7That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Is baptism a work?

"2For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. 3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." Romans 4:2-4

Notice Ephesians 2:10 says, "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them".

What does Paul say of the circumcision? See Romans 2:24-31; Romans 3:29-31; Romans 4:8-15.

Sean said...

Take what you will from Paul's letters to those already in the new covenant.

God was very clear to Abraham that those who would be uncircumcised would not be in the covenant. So, what Paul said either contradicts Gen 17:4 or does not.

Your inability to distinguish from the Old Testament covenant and the New Testament covenant borders on irresponsibility.

You would have us rename the books of Acts to the book of Works.

Servant's Salute.com said...

Let’s see…

If a man child was born into the Jews, he was to be circumcised on the eight day or be cut off from among his people.

So the man child is born into his people before circumcision, but is to be cut off from his people if he was not circumcised.

Does that mean he was no longer a Jew or that he could no longer associate with the Jews?

So we are born into the body of Christ by faith before baptism, but are to be cut off from the body of Christ if not baptized?

Does this mean that one that is not baptized is removed from the body of Christ or that they are to be cut off from the people of the body of Christ?

Can one cease to be a Jew that is born a Jew?

Can one cease to be a child of God that is born again a child of God?

Sean said...

I hate to point this out, but didn't you just answer your own question?

Also, your questions was off topic. Once you've veered off into the "can salvation be lost" we've strayed from the topic at hand.

Servant's Salute.com said...

Actually the topic was about prayer and salvation; not baptism, etc.

The mention of baptism was only brought in as a reference to what Baptist consider to be works for salvation. So I was comparing how when a Baptist hears one tell someone they need to believe and be baptized they see them adding works, whereas Baptist are saying believe and pray which I seem to find is doing the same thing.

And to understand if and how salvation can be lost, one must understand by what means salvation is given and attained.

Sean said...

To me, it sounds like Baptists are afraid of being judged by their actions. A people so afraid that your salvation is or isn't based on an action that you would stand there like deer in headlights.

"one must understand by what means salvation is given and attained."

I smell fear. Fear of being called out about what you actually believe. Afraid that salvation is as much about doing as it is about believing.

One word rings out to me: accountability. I have another friend who is also afraid to commit to his beliefs totally. His once great ministry has now wilted into an impotent facade of what it once was.

I repeat the command of Jesus, Paul and Peter, repent and be baptized for the remission and you will receive the Holy Ghost. I repeat that command to all who would come to Christ. None can prove this command wrong without disproving the words to which they claim to adhere.

Servant's Salute.com said...

We are/shall all be judged by our actions. We are judge by man and we are judge by God.

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, “A people so afraid that your salvation is or isn't based on an action that you would stand there like deer in headlights.” This just sounds like a jab just for the fun of it with no basis.

As for, “I smell fear. Fear of being called out about what you actually believe”: I don’t think Baptist are afraid at all of our beliefs. There is probably a more abundant amount of Baptist material out there to read on theology, doctrine, etc. then there is of Pentecostalism.

The topic at hand is meant to discuss the problem I see with websites, tracts, and preachers telling people to pray this prayer or repeat after me for salvation. The same Spirit that convicts their hearts is the same Spirit that can fill their heart and mouth with words to the Father, through Christ.

As for your comment, “salvation is as much about doing as it is about believing”, I agree. James 2 makes this abundantly clear. The question presented here is not whether we are saved unto good works, it is not whether one should obey Christ with every breath and action, but whether the good works which the Spirit moves in us to do - give us salvation and keep us saved or come forth because we are new creatures in Christ.

Since baptism is in your post, I will say this. I believe that scripture teaches that one should following the Word of God in obedience in baptism. With that said, I do not believe that it is the means by which we are saved. Simply put, baptism is mandatory for obedience, but not mandatory for salvation.

In case the next question raised is, “Can then a disobedient person be saved?” I answer, “Everyone is disobedient both before and after conversion.” All one has to do is read scripture to see this.

John Bunyan

To be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end. 'He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.' (Mt. 24:13) Not that perseverance is an accident in Christianity, or a thing performed by human industry; they that are saved 'are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation.' (1 Pet. 1: 3-6) But perseverance is absolutely necessary to the complete saving of the soul…. He that goeth to sea with a purpose to arrive at Spain, cannot arrive there if he be drowned by the way; wherefore perseverance is absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul.